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Working in Denmark - Why people either hate or love it

Working in Denmark

Denmark's booming economy, stellar work-life balance and supportive work environments have magnetised professionals worldwide. Yet, beneath the surface lie some surprises about working in Denmark.

The Danish work culture stands out with its unique traits and it's crucial to grasp them if you're eyeing a job in Denmark.

Let's unveil some important tips about the Danish workplace you might not know about.

  1. Danish workplaces stand out with their flat hierarchy. Managers and team members often collaborate closely, making decisions together. Plus, the vibe is casual, with colleagues addressing each other by first names and a relaxed dress code across most industries. As a manager you may feel it's eroding the respect for you but it's not. In most companies the employees will be motivated by the liberal working and management style. Danes believe in orderly communication and trust each other's professionalism

  2. Work-life balance isn't just a buzzword. It's a way of life. With an average workweek of around 37 hours and ample holiday time (most likely 5 weeks per year), employees enjoy a harmonious blend of work and personal life. Flexible arrangements like remote working add to the mix, allowing for greater freedom and balance

  3. Danish workplaces often organise social activities after hours, strengthening bonds among colleagues. Whether it's grabbing a beer on a Friday or enjoying a Christmas dinner, socialising is integral. Fitness or running clubs might also be part of the mix

  4. Danes love an informal atmosphere and have a unique sense of humour that may puzzle outsiders. They use sarcasm, irony and self irony liberally to lighten the mood. Even if a colleague teases you with an ironic joke, take it as a compliment. It's their way of acknowledging your contribution

  5. The "Jante Law" is not a law in terms of a legal law. It's more a way to describe the Danish culture which emphasises humility and collective spirit. This mindset transcends into the workplace, promoting teamwork over individual glory. Meanwhile, like in most other cases in our lives you will meet Danes who are opponents to the Jante law. For example entrepreneurs are most likely not fond of the cultural issue
  6. Danish employers trust their staff to manage tasks independently, discouraging micromanagement. Employees are empowered to take the reins, fostering a culture of responsibility and innovation

  7. Quirky perks! Denmark surprises with its unique perks, like: Free lunches provided in many companies. The bigger company, the bigger chance. Another perk is the parental leave for both Moms and Dads. Compared to international standards the parental leave in Denmark is 32 weeks. And in addition you might add holidays so you are not starting on your job after your parental leave and after just a few weeks you are going on holiday

  8. Danish communication is direct and characterised by bluntness which can come across as abrupt or harsh to some people, but it's typically driven by a desire for honesty and clarity in communication. Colleagues and managers are offering honest feedback which might hurt your feelings but do not feel offended. It's a cultural norm aimed at clarity and efficiency. Working in a Danish work space you will quickly learn to skip the small talk and get straight to the point. They're not being rude; it's just their efficient way of communication.

Should I learn Danish?

In many cultures, speaking to people in their mother tongue can pleasantly surprise and win them over. However, you may encounter someone who switches to English, which can be frustrating for language learners. Nonetheless, persisting in your efforts can pay off.

While some Danes may continue speaking Danish and commend your efforts, the key is to convey that you're trying, which earns respect and encouragement from others.

Learning a language like Danish can take time, in most cases some years. It's hard to pronounce and understand the structure of the language.

In Danish, like in English, sentences typically follow a subject-verb-object word order. For example: "Jeg spiser æbler" (I eat apples).

In Latin, sentence structure is more flexible because it's an inflected language, meaning word endings change to indicate their grammatical role. Latin often uses a subject-object-verb word order, but because of its inflectional system, word order can vary without changing the meaning. For instance: "Puella rosam amat" (The girl loves the rose).

So, while Danish tends to stick to a fixed word order like English, Latin allows for more flexibility due to its inflectional system.

In most companies in Denmark you can get around with your English skills. The challenge is the contacts you are having in your job.

Jobs where your English is an advantage:

  • International oriented companies
  • Organisations with a need of high level education
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants

Meanwhile, where it might be a pro to be fluent in English working as a receptionist at a hotel, it can be a con in other service jobs where you are having direct customer contact.

Therefore, you are rarely meeting expats or students of foreign origin working at the counter in the supermarket. As a side note, working at the counter in Denmark is a job position which will be eliminated in the near future as in most supermarkets you can choose to pay for your groceries via an app already.

On the other hand if you are keen on working in the service sector which is the biggest sector in Denmark you will find lots of jobs where either English is a benefit or it does not matter that you are not speaking any other language than English.

The service sector encompasses a broad range of industries, including:

  • Finance
  • Tourism
  • Retail
  • Transportation

Although you might now sit with a feeling of buying a ticket to go to Denmark, first you have to know about the way the tax system works in Denmark. It might sound very boring but will make a world of difference for you if you do not know about it ahead of your arrival. So here it comes.

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